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Gadget trade-in sites offer cash bonuses this holiday season

Want to know how to get more money for your old tech toys? In this edition of Ask Maggie, CNET's Marguerite Reardon lists some Web sites with great deals this holiday season.

Consumers strapped for cash or those expecting a shiny new tech gadget in their stocking this year may want to consider some of the deals trade-in sites like NextWorth and Gazelle will be offering pre- and postholiday this year.

Many of these sites are offering cash bonuses to people looking to sell old smartphones, laptops, tablets, e-readers, and other electronic gadgets through their Web sites. The idea is that people, who may need some extra cash to buy presents for loved ones, might want to consider selling their old products. And as more people are likely to get a shiny new tablet or other tech gadget as a gift this year, these same sites are also offering special deals after the holiday to entice people to clean out their junk drawers of old products make room for the new.

In this, my first Ask Maggie column since taking a three-month maternity leave, I highlight some of the goodies on offer this holiday season. I also explain to another reader what it really means to have an unlocked smartphone.

Holiday trade-in treats

Dear Maggie,

I'm thinking about using a trade-in site to sell some of my old devices, like smartphones, tablets, or my e-reader. I know the holidays are a good time to buy these products, but is it also a good time to try and sell them, too?


Dear Hank,

The short answer to your question is yes. Whether you're planning to receive a new gadget as a gift, or you're looking to make some extra cash to help pay for the gifts you plan on giving to others, the holiday season is turning out to be a great time to sell your old gadgets.

Just as retailers have tapped into holiday consumerism to boost sales volume, trade-in Web sites are also trying to appeal to people's craving for great deals with their own incentives designed to boost the volume of gadget trade-ins.

For example, the site NextWorth has announced a "Pre-Black Friday" deal for Kindle owners. You can trade in any Amazon Kindle e-reader or tablet and get a 50 percent bonus on your device. All you have to do when you trade in your device is enter the code "BLCK50" at checkout. The deal is good for trade-ins of the Kindle Fire, Kindle DX, Kindle Keyboard, and more. Payments are made through either a check, Paypal, or a Target gift card.

What this means is that a 7-inch Kindle Fire HDX with 32GB of memory, which would usually fetch you about $104 on Nextworth will be worth $156. The deal is offered only till November 26.

But the pre-Black Friday Kindle Fire deal isn't the only one NextWorth is running this holiday season. The company also plans to run a CyberMonday deal, which it has yet to announce. And just like it did last year, NextWorth will be running bonuses and specials after the holidays to entice people who may have received a new bright and shiny gadget to trade in their old devices. What those exact deals will be, the company has yet to announce. Last year, Nextworth offered a 10 percent bonus on trade-ins of all Apple iPods from Christmas through December 31. And a spokeswoman said consumers can expect something similar this year.

Other trade-in sites are also offering bonuses and incentives. is offering coupons that let people trade in their old gadgets and get an extra $10 for their trade-in.

"The Gift of Gazelle is a downloadable coupon that can be shared with family and friends," a spokeswoman for the company said. "So if people give a new device as a gift, the coupon can be easily wrapped along with it."

The site, which offers special deals on trade-ins all the time, is offering bonuses just for the holidays to entice people to recycle multiple devices. The way it works is the more you trade in, the bigger the bonus.

Here are the new holiday promos.

  • SANTA10 = $10 extra on trade-in orders valued at $20 to $100
  • SANTA20= $20 extra on trade-in orders valued at $100 to $1,000
  • SANTA50 = $50 extra on trade-in orders valued at over $1,000

Armando Filoteo, president of Technollo, said trading in old gadgets for cash is a way to start the new year fresh.

"The saying 'Out with the old and in with the new' has come a long way when talking about trading in old unused gadgets," he said. Filoteo said people who use Technollo and other trade-in sites can also feel good about their choice to sell their devices rather than throwing them away.

Since used devices are in high demand, especially in developing markets, it means the gadgets get put to use instead of ending up in landfills.

"Think of the children," he said. "Pepe in Africa gets to call his grandma on a used phone. And the money you make is real money. In this economy getting $200 for a 'used' phone is not chump change."

I admit that Filoteo's comments may be a little over the top in terms of the feel-good aspect of trade-in sites. But you can't deny that money is money and any little bit you can get to defray the cost of some other gadget or service you can't live without is a help.

And while many of these sites are planning to run special offers for the holidays on trade-ins, it doesn't mean this is the only time of year they offer such deals. So make sure to keep your eyes peeled for offers throughout the year, so you can be sure to get the most money for your old technology.

Can I use an unlocked AT&T phone on T-Mobile?

Dear Maggie,

I have a Samsung S III with AT&T. But I'm thinking of switching from AT&T. Can I use this phone, once l unlock it, with T-Mobile? How about if I trade it in to Nextworth or Gazelle? Do I have to unlock it first? Can I still use the phone with AT&T service even if I unlock it?

Lastly, if I purchase the new Samsung Galaxy Note III on AT&T, can I use this phone with T-Mobile a year from now? (I do understand about early termination fees -- just want to make sure the model is compatible with both services).

Thank you for your help.

Dear Jo,

In general, an unlocked smartphone built for AT&T can also be used on T-Mobile's network and vice versa. The two Samsung phones you have indicated will work just fine on T-Mobile's network.

And once the phones are unlocked, they'll still work just as they always have on AT&T's network. The only thing that unlocking them does is let you put a SIM card into the device and get service from another carrier. This is possible because AT&T and T-Mobile use a technology standard called GSM. Service on GSM networks is provisioned by using a carrier-specific SIM card. Most of the world's carriers use the GSM technology.

What this means is that once the device is unlocked, it can be used on almost any GSM network around the world. That said, because different countries and different carriers use different slivers of spectrum to provide different services, you may not get data download speeds equivalent to what you'd get on AT&T. But in general, unlocked GSM phones can be used almost anywhere on another GSM network.

Now for the other part of your question: Must you unlock your smartphone before you sell it on a trade-in site like Nextworth or Gazelle? The answer to this question is no. Of course, you probably could get more money for your phone if you unlock it and try to sell it yourself to a friend or on eBay or Craigslist. But the trade-in sites are a good, no-hassle way to sell your old smartphones and other electronic gadgets. And as I mentioned in the answer above, a lot of these sites offer bonuses and specials to encourage people to trade in their old products.

Ask Maggie is an advice column that answers readers' wireless and broadband questions. The column now appears twice a week on CNET offering readers a double dosage of Ask Maggie's advice. If you have a question, I'd love to hear from you. Please send me an e-mail at maggie dot reardon at cbs dot com. And please put "Ask Maggie" in the subject header. You can also follow me on Facebook on my Ask Maggie page.